It will not go away until I join them 

After they burned the village where Zoja lived with her husband, two daughters, and two sons, the whole family, after many vicissitudes, finally managed to move to Germany. With the decision of her husband, they returned after the war ended in order to rebuild their burned house and to start their life in Kosovo.

They lived a happy life until July 10th, 2005, when a landmine exploded on a mountain slope in front of their village. Three children were killed immediately on the spot. Zoja’s son was one of them. The other son was seriously injured. He died a few days later in the hospital of Prishtina, right after his mother gave him the last hug.

Today, despite all the years that have passed, Zoja and her husband still suffer the trauma of losing both of their sons. Although they have returned to everyday life, and even though their family increased with two other boys, the pain of losing their children is something that even time is not healing.

Zojë Gashi

My name is Zojë Gashi, Hoti was my maiden name. I come from village Dollova, I am 52 years old and I am married here in village Gremnik. I grew up in Dollovo, together with my father, mother, and siblings. I have four brothers and three sisters. In the past, we lived the same as everyone else did. Our father passed away early, so he left us when we were very young, we grew up with my mother taking care of us. Our living conditions were not bad. When my brothers grew up, some of them went to work abroad.

When I was 20 years old, I got engaged here in village Gremnik to Afrim Gashi. His village was not that far from mine, not even three kilometers. First, I met his sister and then later we got married.

We had a large family in village Dollova and everyone was very good. The majority of the people living in Dollovo village belong to the Hoti family. I grew up together with my uncle’s family and my cousins. 30-40 years ago, our living conditions were much different than now but still, we lived well.

I went to school for eight years in village Grabanica. Everybody from village Dollova went to the school in Grabanica village because we didn’t have a school in our village. We went to the school on foot and we came back on foot, the distance was about five kilometers. For eight years we always went on foot. We didn’t have buses or cars. For eight years I went to school and I had a lot of friends from the village. We went to school together and we had a good time at school.

My father was 40-45 years old when he married our mother. My father was an older person. He dealt with agriculture and he worked the land. In the past they planted tobacco. We used to help our father by sowing the land. He has educated us to the best of his ability. My sisters and I attended eight years of primary school and our brothers attended also the four years of high school. This is how it happened in the past; they didn’t allow the girls to be educated. Only the primary school. I wanted to go to school because I was good at it. But my father was old and our living conditions were not so good. How was I supposed to travel to Klina?  It was quite far from Dollova.

If I had been educated more, today I would have worked only in charity. I would help people in Kosovo. I always wanted to help people and do good deeds. Kosovo needs good things. Maybe I would have finished school for charity or something similar. But our living conditions were not good at the time.

My uncles were wealthier. So, in a way, our uncles raised us by helping our mother. One of the uncles went earlier to Germany and he helped us more. Because at the time it was hard for my mother with all the children, working the land and other things. But we grew up fine and we never had any problems with anyone.

My mother was a hardworking person. She comes from village Ceskova which is close to our Dollova. She got married to our father, God has given her children and they worked in the field until we grew up. We were closer to our mother, because when my father died when we were all very young. I was in the seventh grade. As a child, I was more attached to my father. My father loved me a lot, more than the boys because I was the first daughter after the boys. He always fulfilled all of my wishes. I would say to my mother, “Oh mother, I miss dad so much.” After my father died, we all became more attached to our mother. She worked hard and to the best of her ability she educated us and we didn’t suffer for anything.

I had two uncles and an aunt. My aunt died very early. Our uncles did very well. I had an uncle in Germany and one here. At that time, they had lots of livestock so they were rich. I went very often to my uncle’s place. My aunt lived nearby them and they took care of her.

After my father died my oldest brother took over and worked a lot. We had a tractor and he would sell gravel. We used to have an excavator and my brothers would transport with tractors gravel and sell it. They used it only for trade. After he finished with the army, the second brother went to Germany, because the eldest brother was also in Germany. After the war ended my mother was all alone so my brother Bajram returned from Germany. My sister, Mana, was in Kosovo after the war and she took care of our mother but then got married and she went to live in Germany, so my brother Bajram returned to take care of the mother.

All the other siblings went to Germany before the war. Only Mehmet, the younger brother, went after the war. The younger brother was supposed to get married in 2005, but when my children died, he didn’t have a wedding at all. All my other brothers are abroad and even my older sister is living abroad.

My mother died eight years ago. It was hard for me. We were close to each other. She suffered a lot; she had many worries throughout her life. Our sister, Hanumshah lived in Klina and lost two children during the war. My mother and I grieved a lot. My mother and siblings cried a lot for our sister because her children were killed in the war. I never thought that I will lose my children too after the war.

My mother used to say, “This experience with your children has shortened my life for ten years.” I lost both sons to landmines. My mother got so much worried that she suffered a heart attack. She was saying, “My heart is completely broken!” I guess this was our fate from God. Afterward, my mother died and Bajram remained all alone. He went to Peja and he lives and works there. Other brothers are living in Germany and they help us, they take care of us and they talk to us. Sometimes they even take us on vacation. I visited Germany two or three times, even Hanumshah did. We stayed there for five or six weeks. They took us there to forget about our worries a bit. I went there together with my daughters and they even took care of my younger daughter.

I met Afrim through a msit (wedding arranger). Afrim’s sister saw me in village Dollova and she liked me. She told Afrim about me and then they arranged a meeting where she came together with Afrim and I came with my brother and sister. We all met in Klina. We met there and we liked each other. There and then we decided to get together and continue our life together.

My engagement day was very nice. I got engaged in village Dollove. My father-in-law came with his brother to take me and my brothers congratulated me. I got engaged in June and then unfortunately Afrim’s father died in August. I got married on December 17th without a ceremony. They just came and took me. There was no wedding ceremony at all. They came in two cars, took me and I got married. My brothers said, “You’re getting married”. We were all very sad. Because my husband’s father died at a young age, he was only 41-years-old.

When they came to pick me up, I cried all the way. I entered their car crying and I came out of the car crying. They wanted to make a big wedding, but God had different plans.

In December will be 31 years since we got married. Before we got married, we didn’t meet each other. So, from that day when I met him for the first time until I got married, we didn’t see each other. Times were such, they just wouldn’t let us. They were saying it’s shameful. But I never had any problems with Afrim. He is my friend, my husband, my everything. He understood me, we understood each other. We shared our sadness. He was the oldest child in his house, he lived there with his mother and brothers. His mother was young because Afrim was 22 years old when he got married. I got married in December, and in February I turned 21 years old. So, we were both young, but at that time everyone got married at a young age.

My eldest daughter, Merita, was born a year after we got married. She was the first joy in our family. They wanted the baby to be a boy because of their father. They were happy, but they were saying, “We wanted the baby to be a boy and give him our father’s name”. But God gave me a daughter. The child was healthy and everybody loved her and played with her. The baby helped them be cheerful again.

After a year and three months, I gave birth to my second daughter, Dafina.

After she was born, we went to Germany. Afrim’s second brother from Germany said to my husband, “Take your wife, come here and stay for some years.” We stayed there for two and a half years, a little less than three years. God gave me a boy in Germany. We named him Adem, the same as Afrim’s father.

We had a good time in Germany. My husband didn’t work too much. Their social assistance was very good. We had our apartment. But after their father died, two years have passed and Afrim as the oldest brother wanted to come back. And so, we did. After we came back, I got pregnant again and I had Ardit. Ardit was born ‘96. He was a good and healthy child. We were a very happy family; we didn’t have any problems in our lives. I had good living conditions; I was the first bride in that house.

We had two boys and two girls and we were a happy family. The children grew up and all four of them were attending the school in Gremnik. They were good pupils, they all had good grades. They were smart children. They were very well educated. Adem was about to get in the seventh grade and Ardit in the fourth.

They didn’t wait to learn their lessons at school, but they would learn the lessons before. They were very smart, the teachers were surprised, they would say, “These children are very intelligent.” They were the first children in my husband’s family and everyone worked with them a lot. We loved them, we had a good approach, we taught them, and we were dedicated. There were school programs that my children led at school. My sons went and performed a recital.

After Ardit was born in ’96, we didn’t have other children. The war started and the children grew up. We suffered a lot during the war. We heard that village Prekaz was on fire and also the village where I grew up, Dollova, was on fire. We went up the slope, and we could see how the houses were burning. My mother, sister, and my little brother Mehmet, who was a KLA soldier in village Këpuz, crossed the Drini River and they all came to my place. They came here to Gremnik, because there was nothing left to go to in Dollova. They burned everything there, even the cows, the houses, everything was destroyed.

My mother was sometimes in Klina, sometimes in Peja, she was staying at the relatives. We escaped and the war started. We managed to stay for a month in the village, continuously hiding. The KLA started fighting with the Serbs. They were near us, at the turn to Gjakova, at a slope. From there they could see all of us crystal clear. The fight started and then they told us, “If you don’t leave the village in an hour or two, we will destroy the village.”

We left our houses carrying the cribs and children’s clothes at 4:30 in the morning, as soon as the dawn started. My brother-in-law, father-in-law, and my husband grabbed everything they could and we left. We immediately left going through the forest and fields trying to reach village Sfërkë.

We have spent a week or maybe ten days in village Sfërkë. Some family members would go during the night to get flour or children’s clothes because the second floor of the house was completely burned. But then it was already impossible to return anymore because everything turned to ashes. Both houses, garages, everything we had were completely burned. 

In village Sfërkë we had our cousins and we stayed at their place. Then the shooting started there as well. We could hear the grenades in village Gremnik. We had to run away from there as well. We went to village Panovc and we slept there for two days together with the children. We ate some food and had some water. My brothers and brothers-in-law in Germany were telling us, “Get out from there for the sake of the children. Don’t stay there anymore.”

We went from village Panovc to Drenovc, which is located in the Malisheva municipality. We stayed there for a week or ten days. From Drenovc we found the road which goes to Prishtina, and we went to Komoran. At that time the Serbian police occupied Komoran so we went to some village called Negovc. We went there during the night, walking slowly on the asphalt. From Prishtina we went to Albania. We passed car after car and together with our four children we went to Vlora, where we stayed for a week. After a week we left Vlora, we risked and we went to Italy. Together with our four children during the night, we boarded a motorboat with 60 people in it. We traveled all night long and we arrived in Italy at 6 or 7 in the morning.

The Italian police stopped us, we showed them our IDs and they didn’t cause us any problems. They said, “Okay, you may pass.” They knew that we are escaping from war, we told them how much we have suffered. Afrim’s brother sent us some money. From Italy, we found the train connection to France. I had some cousins in France, and from there they took us to Germany.

We stayed for more than a year in Germany. I had three brothers living in Germany, near the border with France. And my cousins were living at the border between France and Germany. My cousins took me straight to my brothers. We slept there, and then we applied for asylum. They took us to that place where we were for the first time, before the war, in Ravensburg, at the border with Konstanz, Switzerland. They found us on the computer and they said, “You were here before, you should go there.” We stayed there together with our four children. We didn’t suffer, the German state helped us with everything.

But such was our fate and my husband returned to Kosovo. People started going back after the war ended. My husband said, “I am the eldest, I must go, my young brothers will not come.” My husband came here three months before the rest of us, because he said, “I need to repair our place” because everything was burned. As they say, we started everything from scratch, we didn’t have anything.

My mother-in-law stays in a tent in the yard until my husband came back. My husband repaired the first floor, he covered it with some plastic cover so that snow wouldn’t enter. I came three months later in the middle of the winter. After the war we received aid. That first year was a disaster. My sons and the husband were working all the time and they were repairing one room at a time.

I spoke to my second sister, Hanumshah, who lost two children, who were killed by a grenade in village Obri. I met my sister at my mother’s house in village Dollove, she came from Obria to Klina. We all cried and wept. My sister’s condition was miserable. We couldn’t talk for an hour or two, so we wept with each other. She was grieving, she lost two children, our mother was worried sick, also I was when I was in Germany. We wept and cried but there was nothing we could do. You have to continue with your life. There is nothing harder in life. After some time, my sister started living in a house nearby. We visited each other, we talked and talked. I always cried because of my sister’s fate.

My children immediately started attending the school in Gremnik. Everything went well. My daughters finished the eighth grade and then they enrolled in a high school in Klina. The boys were here in Gremnik, the school was nearby, they were well educated.

After the war ended, KFOR would come and check the yard, they were saying “You can enter the school without any problems”. Because the school in Gremnik was not set on fire. It was an old school but after the war, a new school was built. Then the children got educated there.

Immediately after the war, Afrim bought a bus. He worked in the past in Klina, in Sfërkë, and we survived thanks to the bus. Also, my brothers worked a little, they worked in their garden. In the past, we planted cherries and watermelons and we would sell them in the city, village, in Malisheva, in Klina, in Peja, we would take them everywhere and sell them. We didn’t suffer much, our children had decent living conditions.

We had a field near the house, a bit like a slope. The children would herd cows every day. In 2005, one morning, my husband’s cousin came. He was 14-years-old. He woke up my two sons who were still asleep. I will never forget that day. Both of them went out of the room, they went straight to the yard. They washed their faces, they put some clothes on and they ate boiled eggs. “Come on faster,” said my husband’s cousin, “because the cows are free! Let’s go play together!”

Afrim, my mother-in-law, and I were there. Our daughters were asleep. We were sitting at a table outside. The boys told me, “Hurry up mother, we will let the cows out because we want to go play with the children.” That second son, Ardit, rarely went to herd the cows. Always the eldest son did that. But God took him there. Afrim was fixing the bus, he was about to leave because in the past they were carrying passengers going to Albania. But he didn’t go that day, his brother went. Afrim said, “I am staying here because the bus is not in a good condition.”

My youngest son hugged and kissed me on both cheeks. “Okay,” he said, “Make us some food. As soon as you finish”, he said, “I will wave at you, and I will take Adem” and I told him, “Bring back the cows at around 11-12 o’clock because it’s too hot. When you bring them the food will be ready.”

The children went to play, and like every morning I was doing some work around the house. They went up there, and I don’t know what happened but a loud explosion was heard and it was so strong that the windows all over the village were shaking. The black smoke went up and the whole village was terrified. Everyone was shouting, “What happened?”

When I saw the smoke coming out, I went out into the yard, I saw the uncles and everybody from the village was running up there. I started running. They screamed, “The children have fallen into the landmines.” They were saying, “All the children have died.”

“Oh my God!” I said. I was running towards the slope, where the children were located. My brothers-in-law and uncles stopped me and said, “No, you shall not see them!”

Oh,” I said, “I want to see them, I want to see my children! You can’t stop me!” When I went there, I saw the eldest son bleeding. The second son was lying face down close to him. I started screamed and I fainted, I didn’t know anything anymore. The same happened to my husband, he was completely lost. Our neighborhoods, the in-laws, and the whole village dealt with the children because we were completely lost.

They called the helicopter and KFOR came, many people came from Klina as well because five children fell on landmines. Afrim’s cousin, Shqipdon, found the toy which looked like a pencil. They were eating berries, and while playing with a ball, he found it and said, “I found something!” The children went to look at what he found. He removed it from the place and it exploded immediately and wounded all of them.

The landmine pieces wounded the face of the boy that found the device. My two sons and the other cousin were together. The landmine knocked them to the ground. The 14 years old cousin died at the spot. Also, the boy who found it, the landmine wounded his face.

The KFOR helicopter came and took all of them, the place was full of army soldiers, police officers, I didn’t know what was going on. Some doctors came and gave an injection here at home. I said, “Oh, I want to see them! Why do you want me to lose my consciousness?” And again, I fainted and they administered me with an injection. I went up there with my uncle’s wife and my cousin, I said, “I want to go where my children are, I want to know what happened to them.”

While I was here, they were telling me, “The children didn’t die, they are just wounded.” But I knew what happened because they told me that Adem died immediately. Afrim came and told me, “Oh woman, Adem died immediately and Ardit”, he said, “he is alive, and they are taking him to Prishtina”. I said, “This is the fate that God destined for us. We fled during the war, but this was the fate of our boys”.

On the 11th we buried Adem. There were many people at the ceremony. I almost lost my mind because of everything. That happened on July 10, and the next day Adem and his cousin were buried. All of Kosovo came, they saw this place, many people were coming and going, and I was lost.

Afterward, they dealt with my other son, my brothers-in-law and my husband were going to Prishtina. When I went to Prishtina to see my son, there was nothing to be seen. He was all covered in bandages. The doctor said, “Talk to him because even though he can’t talk, he will hear your voice.” I spoke to him, I said, “Mom is here, talk to mom. They have covered you with bandages. Can you see your mom?” I spoke to him as much as I could. I was worried sick and spoke to him about everything.

He did not react at all, at all, at all. His head was all covered in bandages, his eyes were covered, I couldn’t see his face, I could see only his body. I touched his legs, hands, and neck. His skin had yellow color because he was wounded, he was connected to devices. I stayed there for about half an hour, I spoke to him, I cried all the time until the doctor came and said to me, “Did you tell him everything that you intended to tell him?” I stood up and I went to the door and then I turned back once more and I hugged him.

As I was leaving the hospital, the doctor informed me that Ardit had died. The doctor said, “It seems that your son wanted to get permission from you before he leaves us.” He died at the hospital on July 15.

Ardit used to be attached to me. He never went to school without seeing me escort him to the front door. He wouldn’t go to school without hugging me first. The first son loved me very much, but he was more attached to his father. And Ardit couldn’t stay a single day away from me.

On the 16th we buried Ardit as well. I don’t know how we managed to live through it, I was worried sick, I was trying to comfort my husband because he was in a worse condition comparing to me. He was unconscious, he couldn’t stay in the room when people came to express their condolence, doctors were taking care of him, he was in a terrible condition. I was administered injections, I was completely lost, sometimes I wouldn’t even know where I was, I was crying all the time.

And so, the days went by, full of sadness. For two years I visited many doctors and I was treated with medicaments. It was terrible. Also, my daughters were very upset. They were already grown up. When they would see us, they would get even more upset and they would weep and cry. They would go to school crying and they would come back crying. My second daughter, Dafina, skipped one school year when we were in Germany. So, when we came back to Kosovo, she went to the same class as Adem. Because of us, our daughters were never happy when they would go to school. Since then, we never celebrated anything.

But because of the children life must go on. My husband was saying, “How will we continue living? I want to kill myself; my sons are gone.” And even though my heart was broken too, I would tell my husband “My dear, this is our fate from God, there is nothing we can do about it. We escaped to Germany in order to save them. We came back, and they died.” I told him, “There are many families that have completely disappeared, and what can we do? This was our fate.”

We were depressed for almost a year; we were both in a very bad condition. My husband couldn’t work anymore. His brothers were working and taking care of us. My husband went to visit a doctor called Agron Zajmi from Gjakova, he was checking my husband’s head. My mother-in-law, our brothers, and the people around us were all supporting and they were encouraging us. My mother-in-law told us, “Life goes on, you must keep on living, you can still have more children. It was God’s will for the ones that left us”. She would say, “You can still make children”. They were giving us a will to live. My husband’s entire family helped us a lot. My mother-in-law, my mother, brothers, our people, they would all talk to us, they would come every night and every day. We also went to different doctors.

Two years later, I got pregnant and God blessed us with baby Adem. I named him after my firstborn. We were so happy that we cried all day long when he was born. My brothers, Afrim’s brothers, all the family members, our close family, and friends that were in Gjakova the day when Adem was born were all very happy, we all cried a lot. My daughters were so happy, the whole family rejoiced.

And then after a year and three months, God blessed us with another baby boy which I named after my second son Ardit. I would like to thank the doctors from Gjakova because they have known our situation and they helped us a lot. I will never forget them. With their help, I got pregnant again because I had a problem getting pregnant again after a break of ten years, but then God blessed me with baby Adem.

Even when Ardit was born, we were full of sadness. Full of joy, but also sadness. We were happy when the first Adem was born, but we were happier when we renewed their names. They all used to tell us, “It’s not good to renew the names of children.” But I insisted, and also my husband said, “They will have their names, they will not be called by any other name. I will never forget them.” Even though they cannot take the places of those who left us, it’s enough for me that I call their names every day.

Now even the children know what happened, we told them everything. We told them last year in 2019. After the children started attending the school, somebody told them, “You used to have two brothers, their names were Adem and Ardit”. And when they came from school they asked us, “Mom, dad, some pupils at school are saying that there was a boy called Adem who was 12 years old and a boy called Ardit and that they stepped on the landmines that the Serbs put here”. My husband said, “My dear, it’s better if we tell the children.” So, we brought the children to the living room and we told them everything that happened.

And then we drove the children by car to the graveyard. When we were at the graveyard both of them were just staring at us. “Hey mom, why are you crying? You see that I am here” said Arditi. Adem said, “Mom, you have us now. We will grow up” They were joking, “If they had not gone, would you have made us?”. They were teasing us when we went to the graveyard. But then they got sad too, and both of them started crying. The older son was hugging my husband and the young one was hugging me. But God has blessed us with them, thanks to the Almighty, it’s as if they are alive once again. They even have the same faces, both of them. God has given me the same children.

I suffered a lot in this life, I don’t know if there is anything harder. It was very hard to go through all this, very hard. But I don’t know, God gives you strength and courage. Our loved ones, family and friends, helped us to start living again because it was very hard for us.

As for the landmine, they were saying that the Serbs put it there, because they informed us before, we asked them, “Have you checked this area?”. KFOR said, “Yes, we checked it.” Because the Serbian army stayed in Gremnica, right there on the slope. There were many trenches up there. They said that the Serbs made them.

This boy who found that device, when we asked him, he would tell us, “I found it and it looked like a pencil. When I opened it, it exploded.” The people responsible for landmines came and they searched the place but they couldn’t find anything. It was mounted there, and it exploded there. The explosion was so loud that everybody in the village stood up, many windows got broken. Everybody said, “What was that noise?”

Many people came here to take photographs, to record, they were saying, “These are the consequences of the war. The Serbs left it here. This is part of the war. This was the children’s fate. The whole of Kosovo is full of landmines.” They used to say, “The landmines are hidden because the Serbs placed them. We have searched this entire place. We checked all the places.”

Maybe there are still other landmines, we can’t know for sure, we are not free to wander around, there were many Serbs here. Throughout the war, the Serbs were positioned there, at that slope. Most of the time they spent there, because the entire plains, all this valley, Klina and everything else, can be seen from that slope.

After the war, the foreigners were coming to the school, explaining with translators. We used to talk to the children, together with my husband and our brothers-in-law, we would tell them, “As soon as you find something, don’t touch it because they are landmines. As soon as you see something unusual, let us know. We will inform the police, or KFOR and they will come to remove it”.

Also, the children were always afraid of the landmines. They received a lot of information at school about these landmines.

But, unfortunately, that one exploded and it killed the children. The feeling of sorrow never goes away. Now I came to a certain age and I am experiencing it even harder. I see their friends, they are getting married, they are having children, and it’s very hard for me. It’s very hard for me as their mother. My husband gets out a little, but for me as their mother it’s difficult.

Both of my daughters got married. Both, Merita and Dafina, were very sad when all this happened. Now they have two young brothers, and no sister in the world cares more than they do. They raised them themselves, I just gave birth to these two boys, but my daughters took care of them, they changed their clothes, they gave them food. My daughters took great care of their brothers.

My eldest daughter went last year to Belgium. She raised my sons when she was here. She worked here as a teacher, she has a degree in pedagogy and also a master’s degree. She turns 30 now on October 10th. My daughters were very sad when everything happened. Now when they come, they look after me, they love me. When they see that I am sad, they try to cheer me up, they take me out, for a walk, they take me everywhere, they do everything to please me, me and my husband. But, sadness doesn’t go away.

I regret that I didn’t manage to see their faces. I saw a little bit the eldest one but then they didn’t allow me to see him anymore on the day when they buried him. I couldn’t see the second one either because he was covered with bandages. I couldn’t see anything at all. After that morning when they left, I saw nothing. They were just gone.

I see them very often in my dreams. I see them coming and hugging me. When I was about to give birth to the second Adem, the first Adem came to me and hugged me, “Mom, I came. I will come again to this world, and you are upset, you are crying too much. Why are you crying? Adem is coming again to you.”

I see my second son more often in my dreams. Every time I see him in my dreams, the next day I go to his grave. I go often there; I will also go these days because they have their birthdays these days. When July 10 comes, the day when they stepped on the landmine, I go up the slope there and I cry there.

Until recently, my husband couldn’t come to the children’s graves. He just couldn’t. I always went there with my mother-in-law. Then when my daughters grew up, I went there together with my daughters, my mother-in-law but my husband could never come with us. 

My husband doesn’t let me put pictures of them in the living room. I would like to see their photos, but he has a very weak heart, and he immediately faints, then he just cries and he cries. “I can’t,” he says, “I can’t see their pictures.” Now he started coming to their graves because he couldn’t come for a long time. He never took part in the burials in the village. The whole village knew how hard it is for him. He would go two or three days later to express his condolences, but he never participated in the burial ceremony. Even when we had deaths in our family, he couldn’t go to the burial ceremony because he could not bear it.

It’s good that God has given us these two boys. Our hearts are broken and forever wounded. They will never be forgotten until we join them. Sadness never goes away, it just increases. Now our children are taking the sadness away, we are happy with them, they love us and we love them. We see them both go to school; we take them there. They study, we are happy with them. But our hearts are broken. God has blessed us again, and he has softened our hearts and the hearts of the whole family.

I was happy for my daughters; they are not as sad as they used to be. The sisters grieved for their brothers almost the same as I did. Now things have changed, the children grew up. The eldest son turned 13 this April. The youngest turned 12 on August 19th. They are growing up; we are having a good time with them at home.

It’s hard for a mother, for the family, for the parents, there is nothing more difficult in this world than to bury your children. For me, this was the hardest thing in this world, which I will never forget until I join them.

But life goes on, there is no other way. Because of my husband, because of the daughters, because of all the loved ones, I had to keep on living even though it was very hard. There was nothing harder. But God gave us children, God saw us, and thanks to him we are overcoming.

The story is extracted from the book “Hijacked Childhoods: Accounts of children’s wartime experiences’ and is published in series as part of the framework of coordinated activities of CSO’s in Kosovo, organized to mark the International Day of Enforced Disappearances – 30 August 2023. The book is published in partnership between forumZFD Kosovo program and the Missing Persons Resource Center, and is supported by funds received from the German Federal Ministry on Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Embassy of Switzerland in Kosovo. Prishtina, 2022.